Is this the game changer? Is this the moment, like discovering during my schooldays, that you could type certain numbers into a calculator, turn it upside down and see the word ‘boobies’ or ‘shelloil’ and feel smug in the knowledge you have discovered something new and seemingly significant?
The Amazon Echo will become as important as the calculator to the radio/music world; the new interface that makes a dint into the DAB radio, the laptop, tablet and the MP3 player. Besides the Amazon machine, all the other tech giants are racing to get their machines out; within weeks of me writing this I expect the Google Home to be launched, and others will follow.
But why this? Well, on our smart phones we have the technology that is similar, but in reality not many of us use it, as it tends to be a pain in the arse, and who really wants to sit in his or her car and say words like, ‘Siri do this or do that’? It feels unnatural and at times foolish, plus you have to look at your device and discover it doesn’t understand half of what you are saying.
With a huge technological leap, Amazon has got past this sticky area and produced a device that understands even my Manc accent. It doesn’t feel silly in any way to walk into my room and ask the machine to stream tracks by the Velvet Underground, while it is ordering my takeaway meal. In fact it feels like you have found a new friend who just wants to support your musical tastes. Also, as a radio station manager, I can ask it to play my station so I can instantly check up on the current DJ, making sure they have turned up on time and are producing a decent show. So within 5 years I expect the majority of households to have this, or a similar machine, as the primary musical/entertainment device of choice. I for one cannot wait, as it levels the playing field for independent broadcast media, but where does it leave the music industry?
One of the most potent sources of information on the subject comes from IFPI’s Digital Music Report 2015, which led to Edgar Berger (Chairman & CEO International of Sony Music Entertainment) to claim that “The industry has shifted from an ownership model to access. I’ve not met anyone who can see beyond streaming. So this looks like a final destination.” However, this spokesperson’s certainty does not mean that the road to total digitalisation will be smooth, or be greeted with open arms. Currently, the crux of music streaming depends on giving musicians a raw deal. For example, Spotify pays out a pittance of between $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream, Deezer provides artist revenue of around $0.013 per play, and at Tidal an artist can expect a slightly more respectable $0.043 per play (statistics via The Guardian).
It’s a fact that streaming pays peanuts, not even salted ones, which is almost okay if you’re a highly popular artist who is guaranteed thousands of single plays, like those lucky 0.5% who receive the minimum wage via YouTube, but the same cannot be said for artists who are just starting out.
What IFPI’s report wanted to show, is that streaming can be a sustainable way for everyone in the music industry to make some money, not just those at the top of the food chain, because as Jarri Van der Haegen (Disco Naiveté) so rightly points out, “Music is still a business, and a business needs to be healthy.” The report even has its own terminology for this streaming shortfall, ‘the value gap’, but the solution it offers is a lot less snappy than that sound-bite, because it simply reflects what everyone else is already saying – we need fairer economic distribution.
Regrettably, the route to this visionary solution has yet to be forged, and no one really knows where to start.
“You could argue the cost of music was an over-inflated fee before, at least streaming could become fairer, but the streaming rate offered currently doesn’t feed enough people at the table.”
Rick Moreno, Duly Noted Records
“It’s hard to predict what the final destination for the music business is, but streaming seems like a reasonable guess, as it is the most convenient for the average consumer, despite being problematic for nearly everyone else. My guess is that a few years from now, the streaming model will end up being entirely free, as that is what is in demand by consumers. Without that revenue stream, artists are likely to see labels as increasingly unnecessary, and there will be a fundamental change in the way the business operates.”
Jorge Mir, former Unrecorded
I suppose its goes back to the 70s when the Musicians’ Union had a promotional message of ‘Keep Music Live’- I probably still have a sticker on an old guitar case. The future for income from bands will depend more and more on the income stream from CDs and Vinyl (which the majority of us do not play as we don’t have the equipment anymore) bought from shows, and of course payment from the door takings.
Now that leads us onto promoters but that’s for another day,
Sources humanhuman, Guardian newspaper ,www.ifpi.org
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